THE late Mark Keighley spent his working life in Bradford’s textile and engineering industries and became the well respected editor of the Wool Record magazine, with a worldwide circulation.

When he retired, Mr Keighley wrote a memoir called The Golden Afternoon Fading, reflecting on the later years of the wool-textile industry in Bradford.

Here we publish the latest in a series of extracts from this remarkable booklet - a look back, in Mr Keighley's own words, at Bradford's industrial, business and social life in the 1960s.

“While I was editor of The Messenger (the Hepworth & Grandage company magazine) there was expansion at the Leeds Piston Ring & Engineering Co, a red-brick factory in Hunslet. Production included rotary compressor blades, valve seats, tappets and large cast-iron pistons, previously made at St John’s Works in Bradford.

The most important investment programme in the early 1960s was the construction of a new factory at Sunderland, where several thousand people were out of work. The decision to build a complete ring shop and foundry that would eventually make all Hepolite piston rings previously produced in Bradford was a radical move.

It was always a privilege to meet employees who had completed 25 years’ service and been presented with inscribed solid gold watches. They were a wonderful, loyal bunch of women and men. I could chat to the cooks in the canteen and the man who swept the foundry stockyard in all weathers. Once a month I met chairman of the board of directors, Jack Hepworth, who had his own column in The Messenger, entitled: “Have you a moment?”, allowing him to outline H&G’s plans, problems and opportunities. He had been the company’s first research director, was a brilliant engineer, treated his staff with every consideration, and liked to drive fast cars, preferably fitted with Hepolite pistons, piston rings and gudgeon pins!

I always felt the 1950s were a golden era in Bradford's history. The Festival of Britain and the Coronation were a tonic after depressing years of rationing and austerity. Bradford mills were so busy that some spinners and manufacturers opened branch factories in other parts of Britain to cope with demand. In 1957 Woolcombers Ltd began building a new combing mill at Fairweather Green, the first new combing mill in the city since 1923.

But many of the 86,000 workers who had left the British wool-textile industry during the war had not returned, and it was difficult to find replacements. The industry had to make itself more attractive to women and juveniles in particular.

John Emsley, chairman of John Emsley Ltd, one of Bradford’s largest combines, said his company had tackled the problem by painting spinning and weaving sheds primrose yellow and duck-egg blue to make them seem less drab and forbidding, and brought people to work in special buses, as well as providing creches and subsidised meals in the canteens. But even these measures failed to solve the problem.

Lister & Co, struggling to re-adapt manufacturing capacity to peace-time requirements, were short of labour and inundated with orders. As early as 1947 they had purchased a 50-acre site and built a modern factory in Barrow-in-Furness where over 50per cent of the male working population were employed at the Vickers shipyard and there was hardly any work for women. Machinery was transferred from the company’s Bradford and Darlington mills and trainers were sent from Manningham Mills and the mill at Addingham to teach Barrow people the skills of drawing, spinning, twisting and reeling.

Salts Mill began to spin more of its yard requirements at mills near Glasgow. John Foster & Son, of Black Dyke Mills, built a spinning and weaving factory in Ayrshire. Priestleys, who made some of the world’s finest mohair and Panama suitings, had begun building a weaving factory near Barnsley in 1949. Young weavers and menders were recruited from girls leaving school, trained by women from Priestleys’ Bradford mills. Combers and spinners Ira Ickringill & Co opened a 24-bed hostel on their mill premises to accommodate young women. They provided staff with their own cinema, held whist drives and dances, and built a medical suite offering sun-ray treatment and the services of a chiropodist. Many local firms certainly went the extra mile.

Sales of Room at the Top, by Bingley author John Braine, had exceeded 25,000 within two months of its first publication in 1957, earning him £10,000, a staggering amount then. That probably impressed dyed-in-the-wool Bradfordians more than the novel itself. Indeed some local figures complained that the book painted a depressing picture of Bradford, giving the impression of a seedy, immoral place. It now seems amazing that Bingley Urban District Council criticised its local library for placing an order for six copies of the novel, which John Braine had begun writing when he was chief librarian. At a meeting of the Council, covered by a T&A reporter, Councillor P Dixon declared: “I am satisfied that we are not here to appoint ourselves as censors of public taste in Bingley but sometimes it is to the public benefit that those in a position to lead should act paternally and lead them away from those things which are popular but not always best for people.”

Bradford seemed to be buzzing in the late-1950s. A painting of houses in Mount Street, Eccleshill, by David Hockney, a student at the city’s College of Art, had been selected for the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in London. David was in the same class at Wellington Road Junior School, Eccleshill, as my elder brother, John. I often saw him walking down Victoria Road on Saturday and Sunday nights - usually dressed in a dark suit as if he were going to a business meeting, wearing a bowler hat and carrying a large umbrella. He always stood out from the crowd.

One of his earliest paintings (a lithograph in two colours) is of the interior of a fish and chip shop at the junction of Stoney Lane and Institute Road in Eccleshill, and shows the proprietors, an elderly lady and gentleman, at work behind the counter. You can almost taste the salt and vinegar!"